Global Sojourns Giving Circle Trip
Our 10 day trip was filled with a myriad of activities- cultural, nature, history, wildlife, social, international development issues and more. We got “behind the scenes” and off the beaten path for a truly authentic, unique and memorable travel experience.
- visited the organizations that the Global Sojourns’ Giving Circle supports
- conversations with staff and with the micro-loan recipients
- visits to local markets where the loan recipients sell their goods
- met with students and shared stories
- visited a pre-school and shared in a game made for them by pre-school children in the US
- watched the sunset over Victoria Falls
- dinner with renowned Zambian artists in their home
Zambia- Upper Zambezi and one of GS’s favorite lodges: Siankaba
- a visit to one of the world’s natural wonders, Victoria Falls
- private boat ride to watch the sunset on the Zambezi River
- a visit to a local village
Botswana- Chobe National Park– Elephant Valley Lodge
- wildlife viewing by vehicle and boat
- relaxing by the waterhole at the lodge, watching wildlife come to us
Namibia- Chobe River– another one of our favorites: Ichobezi Houseboat
- viewed wildlife morning, noon and night from our base on the houseboat
- a speedboat took us to the river bank whenever we felt the urge to get closer and explore
- witnessed spectacular and peaceful sunsets while enjoying sundowners and dinner on the boat
South Africa– Johannesburg
- visit to the Apartheid Museum and Soweto
- dinner and conversation in a private home
Our GSGC trip to Africa was the most unique adventure I have had the privilege to experience in my life (all 49 ½ years of it!). From the awesome purple-hued sunsets over the vast landscape teeming with wild animals to the culture of the people and the contrast in the way they live, Africa can steal your heart.
Our variety of experiences allowed us to enjoy each country on a deeper level. The safaris, the accommodations, the interaction with Ray of Hope and Tusa Munyandi (the non-profits we are supporting), the border crossings (!), the village visits, and the dinners with local people, all left vivid impressions. The still shots and short vignettes embedded in my brain . . .
Safaris: the silence of the herd of elephants as they slowly gather at the waters edge; the bond between mama elephant and baby elephant as she hovers and nudges him toward the water’s edge; bouncing around in an open air jeep through the animal preserves; the long sharp teeth of the hippo mouth wide open to pull huge tufts of grass for munching; the graceful Acacia trees and the gnarly Baobab trees; the roar of lions in the dark of night not 50 feet from our open air jeep; the graceful giraffe family loping along the road with us; baboons at sunset sitting in the middle of the dirt road carefully grooming each other; the wart hogs, crocodiles, kudu, monitor lizards, dung beetles (amazing little creatures!), water buffalo, and a plethora of exotic birds.
Accommodations: sleeping in a tent cabin (complete with a full bathroom!) just yards from the local watering hole; an honest-to-goodness treehouse nestled in the banks overlooking the Chobe River; the claw-foot bathtub perched in the treehouse with a panoramic view of the river; the wooden suspension bridges we crossed to get to our treehouse at night; the four-star dinner we shared with the Zimbabwean couple who manage the island retreat; floating down the Zambezi on a luxurious houseboat complete with four staff to cater to all of our needs, a small splash pool on deck, two speedboats at our disposal for river exploration, fishing trips, and village visits; sunrise from our panoramic bedroom window as we coasted by a herd of hippos munching in the marsh; one night in a hostel (I am too old for cold showers!) and the next night in a five-star luxury property set on the edge of the river overlooking spectacular Victoria Falls.
Non-profit Visits: meeting wonderful Dorothy who has spearheaded Ray of Hope for 10 years and whose vision has changed so many lives for orphaned children and their caregivers; the Granny who invited us into her home where we met the grandchildren she is caring for and the pride in her eye as she shared her “bank book” with us showing how she repaid her micro-loan and now had a small nest egg sitting in her account; the young entrepreneur in the marketplace who, with the help of Ray of Hope, was able to grow his business selling cooking oil and put both of his siblings through school; the colorfully dressed women from Tusa Munyandi welcoming us with a beautiful harmonious a cappella song; sharing a quiet prayer with them as they opened their weekly meeting under the shade of a tree in the dirt courtyard; the heartfelt thank yous they communicated (through translators) to us; the preschool children (amazed to see so many white faces!) who proudly wrote their names in chalk and then sang a rousing rendition of “Jesus Loves the Little Children” for us. >
Border Crossings: empty condom dispensers in the immigration office placed alongside a poster encouraging masturbation as a way to prevent HIV/Aids; ½ mile line of trucks parked alongside the road for sometimes six days waiting to take the one and only ferry across the river to Botswana; the unbelievable and unexpected perfect timing of our transit from boat to van to jeep (Thank you Priscilla for being soooo detail oriented!); our trip to Livingstone on the inaugural flight of Zambian Air with a humorous and enthusiastic pilot, spectacular aerial views of Victoria Falls, champagne for all, and numerous print and TV reporters documenting the event (maybe we were on local TV that night!).
Village Visits: Heidi dancing the wedding dance with the little old matriarch of the remote village in Namibia (appropriate for our newly engaged friend!); grass huts, water from a well that is shared with the cattle, pit toilets, and no electricity contrasted with the extravagant lodges just a ½ mile down the road built by these same local villagers; the colorful dress of the beautiful women as they carry their loads perfectly balanced on their heads; the gentle slow pace and friendliness of the people; children playing soccer with their homemade ball and sticks for goalposts; the laughter on the teenage boys’ faces when Aley scored a goal in their impromptu game (what? A girl scored on us???) We didn’t need a translator to understand the dialogue at that moment!; the newly completed stucco and dirt floor church the village was so proud of; the chickens, homemade beer, and handicrafts; not really a village, but an eye popping tour of Soweto, the “township” in Johannesburg where we visited communities of people ranging from squatters to millionaires and where we felt completely safe walking and chatting with the locals.
Dinners with Locals: the sweet savory taste of Amarula as we watch the sunset and the purple, fiery reds and oranges of the sky; the Vegas style casino/restaurant in Johannesburg complete with indoor roller coaster and “statue of David” fountain!; an authentic African meal at the hillside home of two prominent Zambian artists; viewing their wedding video which included a moving tribal ceremony with the couple, dressed in traditional clothing, receiving instruction regarding the “rules of marriage” (respect, patience, love . . . universal truths!); take-out chicken paired with fabulous South African wines at the home of a prominent woman (and mother of three) in Johannesburg. We sat around the kitchen table and compared lives – raising teenagers, college choices, safety issues, travel, politics (she has met both Nelson Mandela and Hilary Clinton!), work opportunities, Apartheid, and the ethnic struggles that have emerged since the founding of South Africa.
*In order to sleep while on safari, you may need to turn on your room fan to drown out roaring lions and trumpeting elephants.
*It is possible to view elephants from your zip up tent
* Zambian Airlines pilots have the ability to dip and soar over Victoria Falls when the media is on the plane for an inaugural flight.
*Priscilla has the ability to have guides show up on time at remote border crossings and coordinate international rendezvous with uncanny accuracy.
*Eat all the unique food and exercise after you get home – you might become a meal if you go jogging beyond the electric fence.
*Six unique women can travel beautifully together. One of them, Heidi Bixby, is an amazing photographer.
*Elephants have a second “trunk” that is as long as the first one. They can hide and use the first one to periscope over trees.
*A bridge is needed between Zambia and Botswana so truckers don’t have to wait 6 days to take a ferry across the river. Sometimes, progress is a good thing.
*Some blacks living in tin sheds in Soweto are not bitter and are encouraged by recent political events. Others drink too much beer.
*Village women seem overworked and carry heavy burdens. Many grandmothers have watched their daughters die of AIDS and now care for their grandchildren. I see sadness in their eyes. Part of a generation seems to have been lost.
*African sunsets are amazing with soft purple hues and vibrant color. Not to mention the beautiful landscape, wildlife and gentle people. There is great need, but no clear path for how to help. There are many paths.
*The darkness is deep and the stars shine brightly. Everything resonates.
*We should tread lightly. And keep our minds open to question and learn.
Global Sojourns created a once in a lifetime adventure to Africa. Each transfer brought a unique and memorable experience with abundant wildlife and connections with local people and their daily lives.
“The struggle for any dream
is always worth the effort,
for in the struggle lies it’s strength,
toward the changing seasons
Photos by: Heidi Bixby (majority!), Angie Inchauspie and Priscilla Macy
For more information on the Global Sojourns Giving Circle visit: www.globalsojourns.com/givingcircle.html